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Pac-12 Football Power Rankings: Week One

The return of college football is here. How does the Pac-12 shape up as we begin a new year?

Pac-12 Championship Game - Oregon v Utah Alika Jenner/Getty Images

It has finally arrived. The painful wait for the new college football season is nearly finished. After one of the most unprecedented seasons in CFB history, we look ahead to a return to a more normal season (hopefully). With a full slate of games, the Pac-12 readies for another season of silly Pac-12 Football that will make sense to absolutely no one. Let’s take a peek at how the Pac-12 shapes up for the coming season...

12. Arizona Wildcats (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

2020 was a season to forget for Arizona. The team finished the year 0-5 and fired Kevin Sumlin as their head coach. Jedd Fisch steps in as the new leader of the Wildcats and will attempt to turn around a program that is in bad shape right now.... like really bad. Fisch has a long background of coaching in football, both in college and the NFL. He also has a good track record with quarterbacks which will come in handy for an ailing Arizona offense from a year ago. The good news for Arizona is that 17 total starters will return to both sides of the ball. The bad news is pretty much everything else. The Wildcats had an offense that finished 85th in the nation in total offense combined with a defense that ranked 114th in total defense. Normally the Pac-12 is a wacky conference with not many certainties. However, one of the few guarantees in this conference is that Arizona will be the worst team to start this season.

Next Game: vs BYU Cougars

11. Washington State Cougars (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

Once you get past Arizona, the Pac-12 quickly turns into a conference with teams that could easily beat each other on any given day. That next team turns out to be the Cougs. Wazzu steps into a second season under Nick Rolovich as he continues to install his offensive system into the traditional air raid offense of the Cougs. There actually is a good amount of tension amongst the Cougs heading into the season as they still haven’t named a starting QB. That battle has come down to the incumbent starter Jayden De Laura and the Tennessee transfer and former 4-star QB Jarrett Guarantano. Guarantano’s arrival offers a shiny new weapon for the Cougs offense, but it takes a special skill set to run the air raid offense. We know that this offense should put up points but we also stand pretty confident that the defense will be fairly porous as well, as is the usual history with the Cougs. Until the Cougs figure out the QB situation, I have a hard time ranking them any higher.

Next Game: vs Utah State Aggies

10. California Golden Bears (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

The next three to four teams on this list are all very close for me. Let’s roll with Cal at 10. The Bears biggest strength is their defense. Justin Wilcox has done an excellent job molding the Bears into one of the strongest defensive teams in the conference. The biggest question mark holding Cal back will be the offense. This has been the story for Cal the last few years as well, as their ceiling as a team has always been limited by that side of the ball. This offense will go only as far as QB Chase Garbers can take them. Garbers has shown glimpses of being a very good quarterback throughout his playing career, though it has been dashed by inconsistent play and injuries. If Garbers can take the next step, Cal suddenly becomes a very dangerous team this season.

Next Game: vs Nevada Wolfpack

9. Colorado Buffaloes (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

The Buffaloes are actually a massive question mark for me. They could gain the most ground in these power rankings of possibly any team. The Buffs had a surprisingly great start under Karl Dorrell, finishing 4-2 under the coach’s inaugural season with Colorado. The reason they are starting so low is a brutal non-conference schedule including Texas A&M and Minnesota to start the year before any conference play. The Buffs will also be running with a freshman QB Brendon Lewis to start the season. Fortunately for the Buffs, they’ll be returning some quality playmakers on offense, including the talented running back Jarek Broussard, to help alleviate any growing pains the freshman may run into. The Buffs start the season as serious dark-horse candidates to the conference championship.

Next Game: vs Northern Colorado Bears

8. Oregon State Beavers (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

It pains me to only place the Beavs at 8, but it’s more of a testament to the talent of the rest of the conference than it is a slight against the Beavs. Oregon State is returning 19 starters this season as well as adding transfer QB Sam Noyer, who was recently dubbed the starting QB for the Beavers 2021 campaign. The biggest obstacle this team runs into is losing the production of Jermar Jefferson, as he is off to the NFL. Still, this is a team that saw nine of their last 12 losses come by less than 14 points per those games. This could be a sign that the Beavs are close to turning their fortune around. Expectations for a bowl game are not as far-fetched as they once were for Oregon State.

Next Game: @ Purdue Boilermakers

Utah v Colorado Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

7. Stanford Cardinal (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

I’m a massive fan of David Shaw and the work he has done with the Cardinal. They step into this season in a precarious place, as they featured an offense that averaged nearly 30 points per game but a defense that struggled more than we’re accustomed to seeing. This season, strengths could flip this season for the Cardinal as several key offensive starters have left for the NFL including QB Davis Mills and WR Simi Fehoko. The Cardinal finished last season red hot, so this weekend’s game against Kansas State could be an indicator of how the 2021 campaign will go for Stanford.

Next Game: @ Kansas State Wildcats

6. #25 Arizona State Sun Devils (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

I went back and forth about whether I want the Sun Devils at fifth or sixth on this power ranking. I’m a huge believer in Jayden Daniels and the talent that he is. In addition, the Sun Devils boast one of the more balanced rosters in the entire southern side of the conference. The problem I have with ASU is there is a lot of outside noise with this team. Three coaches have been placed on administrative leave due to recruiting malpractice during the pandemic and Herm Edwards is not completely safe from punishment here, neither. The Sun Devils are a very talented squad but the outside drama makes me question where their focus will be as the season begins. If they can keep the drama off the field, they can realistically compete for the Pac-12 South.

Next Game: vs Southern Utah Thunderbirds

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 24 Baylor at Texas Photo by John Rivera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

5. #24 Utah Utes (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

I typically tend to give Kyle Whittingham the benefit of the doubt when dealing with question marks surrounding his teams. Whittingham is a great coach that routinely sends out hard-nosed teams that love to play tough. The offensive line for the Utes might just be the best in the conference this season. And we know Utah will have a very strong defense, per the usual. The biggest concern for me with Utah is the quarterback. The Jake Bentley experiment failed big time and he is not even on the roster anymore. The Utes will turn their hopes over to Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer to get the Utes back on top. With a great offensive line and a quality batch of receivers, the tools are in place for Brewer, and the Utes, to succeed this season.

Next Game: vs Weber State Wildcats

4. UCLA Bruins (1-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

My shocker pick of this article! I’m a huge fan of the Bruins this season because their roster is incredibly talented. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson brings a lot of talent and experience to this team and running back Zach Charbonnet blew up in a big way during the Bruins week one blowout over Hawaii. The wild part about this is Brittain Brown may actually be the most talented RB on this UCLA team. This offense has a chance to be scary and the defense held its own, limiting Hawaii to less than 300 total yards and forcing two turnovers. We will really get an idea of how good UCLA can be with the LSU Tigers traveling to the Rose Bowl this weekend. If the Bruins can pull off an upset this weekend, UCLA might just prove that they’re a threat to be reckoned with.

Next Game: vs #16 LSU Tigers

3. #20 Washington Huskies (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

And now we get to the top tier of the conference. These three teams are definitively the elite of the conference, and that list of three starts with the Huskies. We know the Huskies will be a tough team year in and year out and this year should be no different. 247Sports put together a Blue-Chip Ratio gauge, which measures how many blue-chip prospects a team has, and ranked the Huskies as the 17th-most talented team in the nation. Last year, the U-Dub defense ranked first in the conference in total defense, second in the conference in scoring defense, and 13th ranked in the nation in pass defense. This defense is here to kick some butt. As for the offense, this team is built to run the rock but keep an eye out for an expanded role for quarterback Dylan Morris. All-in-all, this is a Huskies team that should have played in the Pac-12 Championship last season but could easily be there again this year.

Next Game: vs Montana Grizzlies

2. #11 Oregon Ducks (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

The Ducks have arguably the most stacked offense in the conference, but it will all hinge on the incoming Boston College transfer Anthony Brown. Tyler Shough is off and gone to Texas Tech, and it will be Brown’s offense to lead. Brown is not the dynamic athlete we’re accustomed to seeing with the Ducks, but his experience should be a plus for Oregon. And if worst comes to worst with the quarterback position it very well could pan out that if Brown struggles, the highly touted true freshman Ty Thompson could step in and show what the future of the program could be. As for the other side of the ball, it all revolves around Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Ducks will be loaded at almost every position and will have a defense that can stand up to almost any offense. The Ducks should be favorites to win the North, but the true potential of this team will be shown next week when they travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Next Game: vs Fresno State Bulldogs

Washington State v USC Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

1. #15 USC Trojans (0-0 Overall, 0-0 Conference)

And first place in my power rankings this season goes to the Trojans. The Trojans edge out the Ducks because they have a definitive answer at the quarterback position, and that is star QB Kedon Slovis. Slovis is the best QB in the conference and it really isn’t that close. He’ll step into an offense that has possibly the best set of wide receivers on the entire west coast. In addition, the Trojans will boast a sneaky good defensive line. If the offensive line of USC can take a step forward to improve their pass protection and run blocking, then the Trojans will be a legit contender for the CFP.

Next Game: vs San Jose State Spartans

What are your thoughts on this list? Is one team ranked too high? Too low?

Give your thoughts in the comment section!